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Wright, MOD. & Masten, A.S. (2005). Resilience Processes in Development. in S. Goldstein & R.B. Brooks
(Eds). Handbook of Resilience in Children, Chapter 2, pp.17-37
Providing a brief introduction about the background and significance of resilience research, three major waves of
resilience research over the past three decades have been highlighted.

Resilience Research: Significance and Inception
According to Masten (2001), the scientific study of resilience started about 30 years ago when it was recognized
that some subgroups of children were able to adapt positively against adversity or factors that caused risk to
their development. The focus of clinical research until then was towards understanding negative outcomes such
as pathology and problems caused due to risk factors. Some such risk factors that pose a threat to positive
development of a child include poverty, neglect, maltreatment, war, violence, and mental illness or substance
misuse among parents.

The resilience research brought out a revolution in understanding of the origins of psychopathology, its
treatment and prevention by focusing on positive developmental pathways such as good outcomes achieved by
children, particularly considered at risk to psychopathology.

Emerging Resilience Framework: Progression in Three Major Waves over past three decades

The First Wave: Identifying Individual Resilience and Factors: The first wave in resilience research is marked by:
Development of the phenomenon of resilience
Clarification and consensus over the basic terms and key concepts used in resilience research. A list of key
terms and concepts have been provided in the paper with their definitions and clarifications, for example,
resilience, adversity, risk, risk factor, cumulative risk, vulnerability, protective factor, cumulative
protection, developmental tasks, psychosocial competence, and other such terms commonly used.
Controversies over the criteria for adaptation by which resilience would be judged including domains of
functioning and assessment of outcomes in different population groups.
Identification of the correlates or predictors of positive adaptation against a background of risk or
adversity: i. Positive or promotive factors associated with better adaptation at all levels of risk, and ii.
Protective factors associated with positive adaptation at high levels of risk or adversity.
Understanding of a developmental perspective in resilience studies recognizing that children at different
developmental stages of their life such as infancy, childhood or adolescence, might have different
vulnerabilities and protective systems around them. This has a bearing over their level of resilience and
coping in the world.

By Javita Narang, at the University of Edinburgh.

Person-focused and variable-focused approaches have been identified to explain resilience in children. Person-
focused approaches recognized resilient individuals emphasizing personal traits and characteristics that help
them function well compared to others despite vulnerability or risk. Variable-focused approaches highlighted the
linkages among individual characteristics and their environments that lead to positive outcomes in situations of
high risk or adversity. By the end of the first wave, a common set of broad correlates of better adaptation among
at risk children was revealed reflecting fundamental adaptive systems including child characteristics, family
characteristics and environmental (community and cultural or social) characteristics.

The Second Wave: Resilience within Developmental and Ecological Systems: The progress in the second wave
marked a shift from the individual factors, focusing on:
Processes leading to development of resilience.
Normative and pathological development with the emergence of developmental psychopathology.
Understanding the complex, systemic interactions that shape both pathological and positive outcomes,
emphasizing resilience as a complex process in development.
Integration of biological, social and cultural processes into models and studies of resilience, leading to
contextualization of resilience in multiple ways.
Child-context relationships and interactions reflecting the individual differences in developmental.
Pathways and contextual variation within families, communities, societies, cultures, and historical periods.
Internal processes reflecting childs perception and interpretation of his or her experiences.

Studies emphasizing contextual specificity of protective factors and, context-specific adaptation have been
reported to illustrate processes underlying resilience. Similarly studies highlighting stability and changes in
resilient adaptation over time illustrate turning points in individuals lives and possible processes that can operate
to create stability or change in resilient adaptation. This points towards the focus on healthy versus maladaptive
pathways of development in children exposed to adversity over time. Lastly, potentially damaging consequences
of viewing resilience as an individual trait have been discussed including the tendency to blame the child for the
deficits and minimizing the significance of multiple systems of interactions influencing the child including cultural
influences. Holistic understanding of the processes that foster resilience or difficulties has been emphasized.

The Third Wave: Creating Resilience through Preventive Interventions: The focus of the third wave has been on:
Preventive intervention studies, models and projects to foster resilience in children including theory-driven
intervention designs to increasing experimental studies to test resilience theory.
Multifaceted intervention studies designed to prevent or reduce risky behaviors, delinquency, and other
problems in children as well as early childhood interventions planned to improve poor or disadvantaged
living conditions of children.
Interventions and multiple strategies aiming to promote resilience by enhancing success in developmental
tasks and reducing risk for problem behaviors.
Interventions for reducing risk or adversity exposure, boosting resources, or mobilizing protective systems
in order to bring about a change in the life course of a child potentially at risk for psychopathology or other
Greater need for research to understand processes that underlie successful adaptation in adversity is
emphasized to design successful interventions for promoting resilience in vulnerable children.

The paper concludes with the recommendation for a systematic study of best ways to translate research on
resilience processes into effective policies and programs to promote resilience and well-being in children.

By Javita Narang, at the University of Edinburgh.